Over the past decade, Professor Jeremy Myerson, Director of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art, has been conducting research into the relationship between the workspace and the city. His work has identified “the three Cs” of a productive workplace: collaboration, concentration, contemplation. Here he discusses the second: concentration.
All over the world, companies are moving away from out-of-town business parks back to mixed-use developments in the heart of the city. It’s the idea of the city as an office rather than the office as a city. The trend for business parks is on the wane because companies are focused on retaining talent, and what talent likes (especially in knowledge and creative economies) is social infrastructure: great restaurants, river views, clubs, music - all the things the city can provide. Location is everything if you’re going to attract dynamic companies. In February, no one wants to be on a windswept business park in the middle of nowhere. The Shard is surrounded by all the things talent wants - and it has good transport links. Its location is its strength.
“The Shard is surrounded by all the things talent wants - and it has good transport links. Its location is its strength.”
However, despite wanting proximity to such stimulus, when this talent is hard at work, it often needs a quiet space that escapes noise and disruption, allowing focus and encouraging productivity. Thirty years ago, offices had lots of long corridors with desks behind closed doors and people were concentrating like mad. But teamwork was terrible. Then the pendulum swung the other way and walls were torn down - it was all about open-plan space, and working life became one big brainstorm. People complained about being pushed off task by noise and distractions.
In a progressive workplace such as The Shard, there is the right landscape to accommodate all three Cs. Its Winter Gardens (breakout spaces with floor-to-ceiling inner glass facades and windows that open) can be used for quiet contemplation, but make them “concentration spaces” and they can be a place where people go to focus the mind and complete their task.